Warfare in the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages (Dover Military History, Weapons, Armor)

Archaeology of Weapons (Dover Military History, Weapons, Armor)
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The tapestry also shows Bishop Odo rallying a group of horseman who had begun to retreat from the battlefield. These soldier-bishops are not really seen in a different way from those who never entered the military life. The reoccupation and refurbishment of deserted Roman walled towns had less to do with a memory of Rome than with the pragmatic realization that these sites were strategically well sited, since they were lined up with the Roman road system that was still the major conduit for transportation in ninth-century Wessex, and possessed the remnants of formidable defenses which Alfreds surveyors often chose to ignore; see below. It is a short book at pages but very readable. However, I will probably secure it with rivets sometime in the future. Allowing seven to eight years for the service life of a warhorse77 means that the normal replacement stream per year must be one-seventh to one-eighth of the total.

Brand new Book. Premodern weapons of war receive a tremendously detailed and thorough accounting in this volume -- the work of a noted authority on medieval arms in Europe. Covering a period of 30 centuries, the study, like a richly woven tapestry, vividly describes the development of arms and armor -- beginning with the weapons of the prehistoric Bronze and Iron Ages, through the breakup of the Roman Empire and the great folk-migrations of the period; the age of the Vikings; and finally, the Age of Chivalry.

Relying on evidence of arms found in bogs, tombs, rivers, excavations, and other sites as well as on contemporary art and literature, the author describes in detail an awesome array of the weapons and accoutrements of war: swords, shields, spears, helmets, daggers, longbows, crossbows, axes, chain mail, plate armor, gauntlets, and much else.

Profusely illustrated with more than of the author's own line drawings and 23 plates depicting many rare and beautiful weapons, this meticulously researched volume will be an indispensable resource for military historians, archaeologists, students of arms and armor, and anyone interested in the weaponry of old. Seller Inventory AAC Seller Inventory BTE Paperback or Softback. Seller Inventory BBS Book Description Dover Publications, Seller Inventory M Book Description Dover Publishers. Brand New. Book Description Condition: New. Seller Inventory n.

Brand New!. R Ewart Oakeshott. Publisher: Dover Publications Inc. This specific ISBN edition is currently not available. View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Synopsis Tremendously detailed and thorough account of premodern weapons of war -- from the prehistoric Bronze and Iron Ages and the breakup of the Roman Empire, to the Viking era and the Age of Chivalry.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title. Search for all books with this author and title. Customers who bought this item also bought. Castles and fortified cities controlled the local countryside and so were usually the permanent home of a force of knights who might be mercenaries, militia, or serving a local lord on a rotation basis. Indeed, the very presence of such a force meant that an invader could not simply bypass and ignore a castle or city or he and his supply lines risked being attacked by them later in his campaign.

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Safe behind the walls, there were archers and crossbowmen who could fire missiles through narrow window slits. The defenders also had catapults to hurl large boulders into the besiegers and damage their siege engines and own catapults. The Byzantines had their secret weapon of Greek Fire - a highly flammable liquid fired from a hose under pressure.

Although this seems to have been largely limited to naval warfare, it is difficult to imagine it was never used in land warfare, and Richard I managed to get hold of the formula and use it to good effect when he returned from the Third Crusade CE. When all the conventional weapons ran out, the defenders then resorted to whatever they could hurl down on the attackers such as burning oil, flaming logs, spikes, and rocks. Faced with all of these ingenious defences, the attackers had to consider carefully how to best go about besieging a castle or city.

The simplest method was to encircle the target, cutting off its supply of food and reinforcements, and then wait for thirst and starvation to drive the defenders to a surrender. Torching any surrounding farmland and villages was a wise move, too, just in case the defenders were able to smuggle in supplies. Naturally, with a large castle or a city, this could take several months to have its desired effect.

The defenders probably had their own water supply, had stocked up on foodstuffs and in an emergency could always resort to drinking wine, beer , or even horse blood.

Castles such as those in Wales built by Edward I CE were specifically situated by the sea so that they could be resupplied under siege unless the attackers had a naval force as well as a land army. The defenders might even have secret tunnels which allowed some movement of people and goods to circumvent the besiegers camped outside. If an entire city needed to be attacked, then encirclement could be an impossibility given the size of the force needed to surround it completely.

This did not stop some ambitious commanders, though, such as the attack on Antioch during the First Crusade CE when the attackers built their own castles to protect themselves from sorties from the city. Indeed, building a siege castle to attack another castle was not an uncommon strategy in the Middle Ages. A castle was sometimes erected right in front of a gate to block any movement while the rest of the invading army left to fight elsewhere.

The best result possible, of course, was that the defenders would surrender immediately. Sieges were expensive and troops might be on a fixed term of service 40 days in English armies, for example so time was also a factor to consider.


In addition, the campaign season was typically limited to spring and summer, and the longer the attackers remained cooped up in their own camp, the more prone they were to attack from a relief force, disease, or even starvation themselves from lack of supplies in a hostile territory. Still, the very size of the attacking army might help achieve a quick result or even the reputation of its commander if they appeared in person - Henry I of England CE and Joan of Arc CE are two leaders who famously had this effect on several occasions.

If the defenders remained resolute, then the first step was to communicate a warning via messengers. In the age of chivalry during the High Middle Ages CE , non-combatant residents might be permitted to flee the scene, but this was not the case when fighting the Crusades , for example. Another strategy was to threaten to hang someone near and dear to the owner of the castle outside its walls - as happened when King Stephen threatened to hang Roger le Poer, whose mother held the castle of Devizes in CE.

A more active approach than permanent encirclement was to try and destroy a particular part of the defensive walls. The gate had long been a weak spot, but as they became more fortified, gates actually became one of the strongest parts of a castle or city. Still, a door was a door, after all, and many attackers were tempted to try and use fire or a battering ram to break it down. Battering rams had not changed very much since antiquity and were typically made of a large log of wood with a sharpened metal cover at one end. The ram could be simply carried by a group of men or put on wheels or suspended from a frame so that it could swing towards its target with greater force.

Protection from missiles was offered by housing the ram in a wood and iron roof. The defenders might try to overturn the ram by dangling chains, ropes, and hooks. Rams could be used against walls, but even more effective were huge drills turned by ropes. Another useful device was a beam with a hook at the end which could be used to prise down a raised drawbridge. Artillery machines had been in use since antiquity, and as warfare spread in the High Middle Ages so they returned to the fore in sieges, blending designs from ancient Rome and Greece with new ideas from the Byzantine Empire and the Arab world.

One attack strategy was to pound the wall with huge boulders fired by catapults or mangonels, which used the torsion of twisted ropes and were based on ancient designs and trebuchets which used a counterweight and were first seen in Italy in the 12th century CE. Both types had a single arm with a sling or bucket attached which could launch a large boulder towards the enemy weighing anything from 50 to kilos.

Some catapult missiles were containers made from wood, terracotta, or glass containing a flammable liquid such as animal fat, which were designed to be smashed on impact like Molotov cocktails. Another artillery device was the ballista, a very large crossbow, which fired thick wooden arrows or heavy iron bolts with great accuracy.

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Not much use at penetrating stone, it was used more by the defenders, as it had the advantage of being more compact than a catapult and so three could fit into a single floor of a tower. More imaginative weapons included kites being used to float incendiaries over the walls which were then shot down.

In the 15th century CE, there was even the use of sulphur gas to drive the defenders out of their retreat - Pope Alexander VI was accused of such tactics during the siege of Ostie in CE.

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Naturally, the defenders had their own versions of missiles and could hurl hot coals, torches, boiling water or heated sand onto the attackers below. In addition, they could protect their structures from fire by covering them in noncombustible material like clay, chalk, turf or vinegar. The earliest depiction of gunpowder artillery is a CE English manuscript which shows a cannon on a wooden stand ready to fire a metal bolt.

Such early firearms, sometimes known as bombards, were usually more lethal to the people firing them, such was the lack of knowledge and design know-how of the medieval period in this area. Small firearms weighing up to 15 kilos were used from the 14th century CE and fired small balls, bolts or lead pellets. Walls were thickened and heightened as a response to the arrival of cannons, and defenders could, of course, have their own, which saw windows altered accordingly in many fortifications. When in the 15th century CE batteries of huge cannons were being used which fired balls weighing over kilos, the days of static siege warfare effectively came to an end.

If the fortification walls looked particularly thick and imposing, then an alternative strategy to bashing them into rubble with missiles was to attack them from below.

Siege Warfare in Medieval Europe

The simplest method was picking out the stones with tools, protection being offered to these sappers by wooden shields, walls, and covered corridors or trenches. Undermining was more sophisticated and involved excavating tunnels under fortifications and then setting fires in them so that the walls collapsed under their own weight.

Naturally, this was not possible if the castle had been built on a solid rock foundation. A famous episode of undermining was the attack on Rochester Castle in England in CE when a corner of the keep collapsed after the miners had set a huge fire in their tunnel using wood and pig fat. An all-out assault on a section of wall at some point involved good old-fashioned scaling ladders and siege towers. The enemy could be softened up by artillery, but hand-to-hand combat - bloody and chaotic - was almost inevitable.

Siege towers allowed the attackers to get near a wall or tower and possibly scale it or, at least damage it. Built of wood and assembled on site, they had their own wheels so that they could be positioned against a wall using manpower or oxen.

Conquest - Roman Weapons

These huge structures, often given names like the cat or bear, must have had a tremendous psychological impact. Refinements included a projecting lower platform which protected sappers while they dug at the wall, a suspended battering ram, or a cradle arm and box which could lower a number of men over the wall. The besiegers received covering fire from their own archers shielded by wooden screens pavises or large shields mantlets and their catapults so as to keep the defenders distracted.


Towers at the siege of Lisbon in CE were over 24 metres 80 feet high, for example. The defenders tried all they could to resist the towers, for example shooting fire arrows at them, but a tower might be covered in water-soaked animal skins or metal plates to resist such a strategy. Another method was to fill trenches in front of the wall with loose earth so that it would collapse when a tower approached and sometimes the defenders even built their own tower to better attack the other. Although chivalry was a highly regarded ideal, there are plenty of instances of trickery in medieval siege warfare.

A small number of men might disguise themselves and get into the castle.